NBC’s Guthrie to Hillary: Should Benghazi Committee be ‘Disbanded’?

In an exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton on Monday’s NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie teed up the Democratic front-runner to slam the congressional committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack as a partisan hit job: “You're scheduled to testify before that committee. Do you think it should be disbanded? That's what Nancy Pelosi has called for.”

Clinton seized on the softball: “Well, I have to say that now that they’ve admitted it's a political partisan committee for the sole purpose of going after me, not trying to make our diplomats who serve in dangerous areas safer, that's up to the Congress....it's not appropriate what they’ve done, from obviously their own admission.”

In a follow-up, Guthrie wondered: “You've mentioned there have been seven or eight Benghazi committees. This is the first to actually discover and find your e-mails. Was that a public service?”

Clinton dismissed the idea: “No. No, I mean, before this whole thing, you know, was a big controversy, you know, the State Department was looking for information. My e-mails were on the government account, more than 90% of them....some things are just beyond the pale, and I'm happy to go, if it still is in operation, to testify. I am happy to turn over my e-mails. I've gone further than anybody ever has.”

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In prior questions, Guthrie pressed Clinton on attempts to brush aside the e-mail scandal:

> I think I’ve read every single thing you've ever said about it as I was researching for this interview, and I have to tell you, I see two things. On the one hand you've said sorry and you've apologized for the confusion that it creates. On the other hand, sometimes you say it's the work of your Republican rivals going after you. It's the same old partisan attacks. And I guess my question to you is, which is it? If you're blaming the Republicans, some might wonder how genuine is that apology?

> It was allowed – it's allowed, but I mean, you know this, and anybody who works in government knows it's really not encouraged to use your personal e-mail, and I just – do you get how bad it looks? It looks like you set up a personal server, you set up your own e-mail so that you would have control of those e-mails and you and you alone would decide when to release them, whether to release them, and in fact that is what happened.

> You mentioned your Republican rivals making hay of this. I have to ask you, if the tables were turned and it was Dick Cheney or Karl Rove who had a private e-mail account and a private server on which they conducted all their government business, would you be as understanding?

In response to the third question, Clinton launched into a tirade:

I would never have done that. Look at the situation they chose to exploit to go after me for political reasons, the death of four Americans in Benghazi. I knew the ambassador. I identified him. I asked him to go there. I asked the President to nominate him. There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress, and they were non-partisan and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make. This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats who were thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.

It was at that point that Guthrie asked if the committee should be disbanded before Clinton’s scheduled testimony.

Here is portion of the October 5 exchange:

7:42 AM ET

(...)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's talk about your favorite subject, the e-mail controversy.

HILLARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

GUTHRIE: I think I’ve read every single thing you've ever said about it as I was researching for this interview, and I have to tell you, I see two things. On the one hand you've said sorry and you've apologized for the confusion that it creates.

CLINTON: Right, right.

GUTHRIE: On the other hand, sometimes you say it's the work of your Republican rivals going after you. It's the same old partisan attacks.

CLINTON: Right.

GUTHRIE: And I guess my question to you is, which is it? If you're blaming the Republicans, some might wonder how genuine is that apology?

CLINTON: Well, actually it's both. I mean, I'm sorry that I made a choice that has resulted in this kind of, you know, situation and I've said I've made a mistake. Obviously if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t. It was allowed and everybody has confirmed that, but it's also, as we now know very clearly, the way that the Republicans are trying to bring my, as they admit, poll numbers down – excuse me. So, you know, I'm very committed to answering questions and being as transparent as possible. I'm scheduled to testify before their committee, which we now know is nothing but a partisan exercise. So it's really both, Savannah. It's both, hey, you know what, turn the clock back, it was allowed. I was thinking about many other things than my e-mail account when I became secretary of state because we had so many issues-

GUTHRIE: It was allowed – it's allowed, but I mean, you know this, and anybody who works in government knows it's really not encouraged to use your personal e-mail, and I just – do you get how bad it looks? It looks like you set up a personal server, you set up your own e-mail so that you would have control of those e-mails and you and you alone would decide when to release them, whether to release them, and in fact that is what happened.

CLINTON: Well, Savannah, first of all, it was allowed and I've said it wasn't the best choice, and every government official gets to decide what is personal and work-related. If I’d had two separate accounts, as many people do obviously, I would have decided every hour what was personal, what was work-related. The law also says that the official gets to determine that and that's what I did. And I have gone further than anybody that I'm aware of in American history – now that's not a long history because we haven't had e-mails that long – but as long as we've had them, I've gone longer and farther to try to be as transparent as possible. Nobody else has done that. And by the time this is over, I'm a little, you know, I'm a little embarrassed that the e-mails are so boring in many instances, but, they will all be out there and people will be able to make their decisions.

GUTHRIE: You mentioned your Republican rivals making hay of this. I have to ask you, if the tables were turned and it was Dick Cheney or Karl Rove who had a private e-mail account and a private server on which they conducted all their government business, would you be as understanding?

CLINTON: I would never have done that. Look at the situation they chose to exploit to go after me for political reasons, the death of four Americans in Benghazi. I knew the ambassador. I identified him. I asked him to go there. I asked the President to nominate him. There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress, and they were non-partisan and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make. This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats who were thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.

GUTHRIE: You're scheduled to testify before that committee.

CLINTON: That's right.

GUTHRIE: Do you think it should be disbanded? That's what Nancy Pelosi has called for.

CLINTON: Well, I have to say that now that they’ve admitted it's a political partisan committee for the sole purpose of going after me, not trying to make our diplomats who serve in dangerous areas safer, that's up to the Congress. If they’re going to have it still running, I'll be there, and I'm looking forward to answering questions about real things when I'm there, and I'm looking forward to having a chance to explain everything we've done, everything that I asked to happen. But it's not – it's not appropriate what they’ve done, from obviously their own admission.

GUTHRIE: You've mentioned there have been seven or eight Benghazi committees. This is the first to actually discover and find your e-mails. Was that a public service?

CLINTON: No. No, I mean, before this whole thing, you know, was a big controversy, you know, the State Department was looking for information. My e-mails were on the government account, more than 90% of them. The State Department was pulling them out. They’d been handed over. So, you know, look, I've been around this political situation for a long time, but some things are just beyond the pale, and I'm happy to go, if it still is in operation, to testify. I am happy to turn over my e-mails. I've gone further than anybody ever has. That's okay. I'm willing to do that, but the real issue here is what happened to four brave Americans.

(...)


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